California Poppy – Eschscholzia californica

California Poppy thrives in sunny positions and is a delightful annual plant for the patio or balcony. It needs to be in the sun as the flowers close up tightly when the weather is damp or cloudy.

California Poppy has an upright habit of growth with feathery, blue-green leaves. There are many varieties to choose from, ranging in height from 23— 38cm (9-15in). The flowers are produced from June to early October and open only in full sunshine. They are either single, semi-double or double, up to 8cm (3in) across and come in a range of oranges, yellows and scarlets.

Many varieties of California Poppy seeds are sold as mixtures, including white, cream, yellow, orange, scarlet and cerise shades. ‘Monarch Mixed’ grows 23cm (9in) tall and has flowers with single, semi-double and double blooms. ‘Double Ballerina Mixed’ has plain and bicoloured flowers up to 8cm (3in) across. The blooms of ‘Thai Silk Series Pink Shades’ have silky petals with attractively fluted edges.California Poppy - Eschscholzia californica

Single coloured varieties include ‘Cherry Ripe’, 30cm (12in) tall with bright cerise flowers, ‘Purple-Violet’, 30-38cm (12-15in) tall, and ‘Orange King’, 30cm (12in) with glowing yellowy orange flowers. All are ideal for providing bright splashes of colour for your window-box during the summer.

Growing from seed

Sow seeds outdoors in March in a mixture of one part sand to three parts soil-based compost, covering the seeds with 5mm (1/4in) of compost. When the seedlings have developed, thin them out to allow more room for growth. Keep the compost just moist but water generously when first buds appear.

Looking after your plant

California Poppy needs regular watering in warm weather. Check terracotta pots daily as they can dry out quickly. Keep the compost evenly moist. Apply liquid fertilizer no more than once or twice during the growing season.

The mixed varieties are best grown alone, but single colour varieties look good grown with Marguerites and blue Lobelia.

Pests And Diseases

White deposits on the leaves are powdery mildew which can occur in cool, damp conditions. Treatment: Trim away affected leaves and spray with a fungicide, repeating at regular intervals. Move plants to a sunnier spot if possible and avoid overhead watering.

Aphid attacks can be a problem, so check plants regularly.

Treatment: Mild attacks of aphids can be washed off with a strong jet of soapy water. For severe attacks, spray with a suitable insecticide once a week for three weeks.


California Poppy is very easy to grow. Pinch out the growing tips of young plants to make the stems branch and remove dead flowers before seed heads form to encourage prolific flowering.

  • Potting: Sow the seeds where they are to grow outdoors during March. Use a mixture of one part sand to three parts soil-based compost.
  • Water generously during warm weather and never allow the compost to dry out completely. Keep a close check on plants growing in terracotta pots as these will dry out rapidly in hot weather.
  • Feeding: Feed with a liquid fertilizer once or twice when watering during the growing season or spray occasionally with a foliar feed.


  • Light: California Poppy needs a sunny position. The flowers open fully only in full sunlight so a south-facing position on a patio or balcony is ideal. On dull, damp days the flowers will remain closed all day.
  • Temperature: California Poppy is a frost-hardy annual. Self-sown seedlings will overwinter successfully in a sheltered position.

Buying Tips

  • California Poppy is widely available as seed in packets during winter and spring.
  • Choose seeds packed in foil sachets inside a paper packet. This will ensure that the seeds are really fresh and will germinate successfully. Also check the date on the packet.
  • Grown as an annual and may produce self-sown seedlings.

California Poppy is a delightful annual plant, providing a brilliant show of colour throughout summer and autumn.

Give plants a bright, sunny spot on the patio or balcony.

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